Exploring Eastern Bhutan

Posted by Crooked Compass

Known as the Kingdom between the earth and the sky, the world has few secrets left, but Bhutan is one of them. Isolated from the outside world for three centuries, this forbidden Kingdom in the Himalayas provides a setting for a bewitching adventure amongst widely varying peoples and terrain.

An elderly lady spins wool outside her home, Bhutan.
An elderly lady spins wool outside her home, Bhutan.

Eastern Bhutan is one the least explored regions of Bhutan, making it reason enough to want to get over there and discover and experience what is on offer. Nature and adventure loving travellers who visit this remote part of Bhutan will be rewarded with wild, rugged, unspoilt beauty, dzongs (forts) and temples. Gorgeous silk and embroidery work, towering cliffs, pristine emerald forests and a terrain with such great variations in altitude and climate, there really is something for everyone.

This region is perfect for those seeking a day hike or longer treks. Accommodation in this part of the country is rustic and perhaps a little spartan but the experience of camping out beneath the stars or the genuine warmth and hospitality of the locals in a homestay are moments you will never forget.

Eastern Bhutan
Eastern Bhutan

Where to visit:

Trashigang

Spanning the eastern most corners of the Kingdom, Trashigang goes all the way to the Indian border. The countries largest river, the Dangmechu, flows through Trashigang. The town itself, nestled on a hillside, was once a major trading hub with Tibet. Today it is the junction of the East-West Highway with connections into India.

trashigang_bhutan
Trashigang, Bhutan

Trashiyangtse

Brimming with sub tropical and alpine forests, Trashiyangtse is a treasure trove of natural, historical and cultural resources making it one of the most memorable destinations in Bhutan to visit.

A short drive from Trashiyangtse is Chorten Kora, where local residents and the Dakpa people from Arunachal Padesh gather in February/March for a festival that involves circumnavigating the chorten. Bumdeling to the north is home to the black-necked cranes of the winter, and to the iconic butterfly of Bhutan, known as Lodlow's Bhutan Glory.

Trashiyangtse's people include the Yangseps, the regions indigenous dwellers, Tshanglas, Bramis from Tawang in Arunachal Padesh, Khengpas from Zhemzang and Kurtoeps form Lhuentse. This rich cultural and ethnic diversity has resulted in an interesting mix of languages and cultural practices in the region.

The people in this region are incredibly skilled at woodwork and paper making, and their traditional crafts are prized throughout the country.

Chorten Kora, Trashiyangtse
Chorten Kora, Trashiyangtse

Mongar

The road to Mongar is quite spectacular. It passes over sheer cliffs and through beautiful fir forests and green pastures. On the way lies the interesting Rhododendron Garden, with innumerable varieties of rhododendrons. If you're passing this way on a clear day, you may even manage to capture a glimpse of Gangkhar Puensum, the world's highest unscaled mountain.

The landscape here is a mixture of stark cliffs and deep gorges set amidst dense conifer forests. Mongar is renowned for its weavers and textiles. Some of the countries finest fabrics come from here.

The town itself sits atop a hill. The main street is lined with traditionally painted stone buildings with wooden facades and verandas.

Mongar Dzong
Mongar Dzong

Lhuntse

The ancient region of Kurtoe or Lhuntse lies in the North Eastern corner of Bhutan. It is the ancestral home of Bhutan's kings and is home to many sacred pilgrimage sites. This is one of the most remote districts in Bhutan.

The landscape sees cliffs towering above river gorges and dense coniferous forests. Lhuntse is also famous for its weavers, and their distinctive textiles. Kurtoep women are especially adept at weaving a textile called Kishuthara.

Lhuntse
Lhuntse

Samdrup Jongkhar

Samdrup Jongkhar lies in the South Eastern region of Bhutan and borders the state of Assam in India. It is the oldest town in Bhutan, and the largest urban centre in east Bhutan. A bustling settlement of shopkeepers and hawkers, it is also the entry point to Bhutan for those who are travelling overland.

Pemagatshel Dzongkhag

Pemagatshel is in South Eastern Bhutan and over 70% of its landscape is covered by broadleaf and coniferous forests; the rest is mostly farmland.

This area is famous for its artisans and weavers. Relgiious musical instruments like Jailings (oboe like instruments) and Dhungs (long ritual trumpets) are made here, and are highly prized and sold throughout the country.

The weavers of Pemagashel produce fine Kira's (traditional dress worn by women) from Bura (sraw silk). The region is also famous for Tsatsi Buram, a local sweet made from sugarcane that grows locally.

Prayer Flags, Eastern Bhutan
Prayer Flags, Eastern Bhutan

Looking to explore Bhutan? Be sure to check out our Bhutan Unveiled small group tour for further inspiration.